Arriving to Ireland and the Journey to Donegal

I arrived in Ireland on Sunday! It turned out that two other people were on my flight, and that one of them had sat right across from me at O’hare while we were waiting for the plane to board. I was really worried about the initial conversations with people, but they were both super nice. There were 7 of us who rode from the airport to the house, and we all got along and talked to each other. When we got to Bundrowes, all of the other gappers were already there and settled in. We all introduced each other, and we met our leaders, Joe and Sarah. It was a little awkward because everyone who had arrived at the house earlier had already gotten to know each other better, while I really only knew my group.

Our first meal together was lasagna (gluten-free pasta for me), and we all crammed around one table and chatted. After dinner, everyone went to the pub in town, but I decided to stay back because I needed to shower and finish setting up my room. Everyone was SO nice, and no one gave me crap about not going. Later, and few people came back from the pub early, and we sat in the blue room on the couches learning more about each other – I felt very at ease with my new house mates 🙂

Bundrowes House: Our Student Home

Our New Home

Our New Home

Bundrowes house is an old manor house built in the 18th century. It has six rooms with two or three people staying in each one. On the first floor, there is a big living room with some comfy seating around an old fireplace – It has LOTS of character and great views. This is also where we eat dinner. All 14 of us have decided to eat together around a large table in a bay-window overlooking the ocean; It is a bit of a struggle because there are three or four lefties. We all had to get very close very fast, literally.

The kitchen is constantly stocked with food, and they have been very good at making sure I have gluten-free options. The stairs leading upstairs have a creak that gives the house character. The only room on the second floor that isn’t a bedroom is the blue room, a large room overlooking the Atlantic and Donegal Bay, which is full of couches and comfy chairs (all blue of course) and has a projector that can be hooked up to a computer to play a movie.

The view from our front door

The view from our front door

My favorite feature of the house is the fact that you can step out the front door and look out across some blowing grass and see the ocean. Its waves are basically crashing into our front yard with some mountains behind it.

Our First Week (..so far)

Orientation week has been busy. On Monday, we started out by going to the classroom in town, and Ryan went over the rules and guidelines of the program. After that was done we went home and made ourselves lunch (which is something we’ve done every day so far), and played spoons when we were done. Next, we took a walk along the ocean and took a short tour of the town. Before dinner, we had some free time and watched Dirty Dancing. Everyone ended up watching with us (even the boys!). After dinner, we all walked to one of the pubs in town. I feel like that was a turning point, and we all really clicked and got to know each other that night. I still couldn’t remember everyone’s names, but it felt like I knew them much better after that day.

Tuesday was our first surfing lesson! I was horrible at it. I could barely get up onto my knees! But there were some people who managed to stand up pretty quickly, and it definitely motivated me to keep trying. That afternoon, we were back in the classroom for our second orientation meeting with Ryan. We wrote our magic statements and made some goals for the program. After that, we got all of our rain gear on and took a very short hike to a waterfall. After dinner, a handful of us sat around the dining room table playing card games and talking for a few hours. It was really nice to take that time to just talk to them without anything else going on.

Polar Dip Hike

Polar Dip Hike

On Wednesday, we had our first leadership workshop with Ryan. We started by taking the Meyer-Briggs personality test and used that to find our strengths and something we need to work on. After, we did the egg drop challenge, and my team won (we totally thought we weren’t going to)! After lunch, we did a big hike up a mountain that you can see from our house. Ryan and his dog, Pup, came with us. Pup impressively shot up a very steep hill ahead of us. When we finally got to the top (my legs were BURNING), there was a lake, and we did the Polar Dip challenge. We all stripped down into our swimsuits and jumped into the freezing cold water, and then ran back out and quickly got dressed. We had a quick cup of tea and then hiked back down the mountain.

Local Beaches

Local Beaches

Thursday marked our second day of surfing, and the day I stood up on the surfboard, twice!!! Of course, I fell off immediately after, but we’ll say they were graceful. We hopped on the bus after lunch to go to a different town to do the orientation to Foroige. It’s an organization that helps young adults at risk and is one of the places we’ll be volunteering. We spent the afternoon learning about the rules and boundaries to follow while working with the kids. We had some free time after and a few of us explored the beach in front of our house and spent a little time with a dog that lives nearby. There were big fluffy clouds that the sun hit just right with the waves rolling underneath creating the perfect, beautiful evening.

~ Bella Epstein